When I found out I was pregnant, I soon realized that more than any other moment in my life, pregnancy would be a time of transformation. I know: This is both a completely banal truism and an annoyingly accurate statement. There were the lifestyle changes (farewell, boozy late nights!), the emotional changes (hello, weird hormones and acne!), and of course, the physical changes (like, I heard that boobs got bigger, but this is just ridiculous).
There were also the external changes I was preparing for, like figuring out how to carve a space for a nursery in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, along with a whole host of internal changes I did not anticipate, like any number of medical curve balls that I had almost no control over. Amid all of this was a constant barrage of unsolicited advice, weird internet rumors, and a smattering of actually helpful insider info. With this inundation of change and information, I soon found myself clinging to any part of my pre-pregnancy life with the same desperate fervor as a Bachelor contestant clutching her white wine and first-impression rose.
I’ve been a trainer and runner for years, so pregnancy-safe workouts became a big part of my self-care routine to help deal with it all. And hey, staying active during pregnancy is a good thing. Given your care provider’s clearance, moderate-intensity exercise (think: briskly walking, prenatal yoga, swimming) can potentially reduce back pain, reduce your risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and strengthen your heart. (Plus, taking any kind of prenatal workout class is a nice way to make friends with other pregnant folks.)
Working out while pregnant soon led me on a quest for the perfect pair of maternity leggings. Early on, I was fine wearing high-waisted non-maternity options, like the Alo Yoga 7/8 High-Waist Airbrush Legging or the Athleta Ultra High Rise Elation Tights. I also had success for a time wearing workout leggings one size up, low on my hips—Nike Pro Tights and New Balance Accelerate Capri worked well.
But at a certain point, the bump could no longer be ignored or easily contained. I also wanted support and stretchier options to accommodate my seemingly ever-expanding hips and butt. Enter the options below. Each one of these kept me comfortable all the way through my third trimester (seriously, we shot the below photos when I was 35 weeks pregnant).
All of the maternity leggings below have over-the-bump waistbands. While there are options with elastic side panels that sit low on your hips, I personally found those to be uncomfortable once I reached the third trimester (and what unicorn wants to go shopping in their third trimester!?). For every option, you should take your pre-pregnancy size unless otherwise noted. So if you were typically a medium, you should still be a medium in maternity-land.
There are also varying levels of compression, and what works for you is totally personal and might change. Around week 35, I started dealing with a decent amount of ankle- and calf-swelling (pregnancy is a beautiful thing, friends), which usually got worse after I worked out. As a result, I appreciated leggings with a higher level of compression (I also caved and bought some truly cringeworthy-but-helpful compression socks). You might luck out—edema doesn’t come for us all—and perhaps you’ll want even less compression at the end.
If you plan to work out regularly and it’s in your budget, I’d highly recommend investing in two pairs of maternity leggings: one pair for the gym and one pair for everything else. But you do you! Read on to find your perfect pair.